Versatility has never been a problem or a pose for singer Julie Christensen, whose voice found a home in the L.A. post-punk band Divine Horsemen and, for years, as a spotlighted singer with Leonard Cohen. With Something Familiar, her third CD, she adds another genre feather to the cap: jazz. Singing standards, and in her own signature style, is actually nothing new for the vocalist. In her sundry travels, geographically and musically, she has dipped into the Great American Songbook for years, from her native Iowa to years spent in Austin and Los Angeles, and onto her current life, based in Ojai, California. Something Familiar is more than a standards festival. The album title itself is taken from a fascinating Jimmy Webb-penned rarity, “Just Like Marilyn,” There is also the original “Hard to Love,” and a gritty-bluesy workout, “Today I Sing the Blues.” With her keyboardist and longtime creative cohort Karen Hammack, Christensen tracked in Brooklyn with noted jazz drummers Jeff Ballard and Kenny Wollesen, alongside bassists Mary Ann McSweeney and Don Falzone. Back on the west coast, trumpeter Jeff Elliott and pedal steel guitarist-of- note Greg Liesz added their spices to the mix. The end result is a fresh twist on old musical values, something familiar yet also otherwise.
Christensen’s first solo album should have been released in 1990, after she worked on it with producer Todd Rundgren at his Bearsville studio. Alas, the album got caught up in record company snafus and it has remained on the shelves all these years. Meanwhile, Christensen took the DIY route and made two fine albums, Love is Driving (1997) and Soul Driver (2001), on her own Stone Cupid label.
Among Christensen’s present musical activities, her connection to Leonard Cohen’s world continues, as a featured member of the Cohen tribute projects produced by Hal Willner. The tribute’s Sydney Opera House concerts became the core of the acclaimed documentary, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, featuring Christensen and her longtime ally (and fellow Ojai- an) Perla Batalla on the classic Cohen song “Anthem.” The Came So Far for Beauty concert series in fact just held two performances in Dublin, Ireland on October 4th and 5th, and Julie again participated, along with Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Jarvis Cocker and many others.